John Denham, fully Sir John Denham

Denham, fully Sir John Denham

English Poet and Courtier, Surveyor of the King's Works

Author Quotes

Actions of the last age are like almanacs of the last year.

Nothing happens until something moves.

The man who first abused his fellows with swear-words instead of bashing their brains out with a club should be counted among those who laid the foundations of civilization.

And doubt, a greater mischief than despair.

O could I flow like thee, and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme! Though deep, yet clear, though gentle, yet not dull, Strong without rage, without o’erflowing full.

The three first parts I dedicate to my old friends, to take off those melancholy reflections which the sense of age, infirmity, and death may give them.

Books should to one of these fours ends conduce, for wisdom, piety, delight, or use.

O happiness of sweet retir'd content! To be at once secure and innocent.

There are certain garbs and modes of speaking which vary with the times; the fashion of our clothes being not more subject to alteration than that of our speech.

But whither am I strayed? I need not raise Trophies to thee from other men's dispraise; Nor is thy fame on lesser ruins built; Nor needs thy juster title the foul guilt Of Eastern kings, who, to secure their reign, Must have their brothers, sons, and kindred slain.

O, could I flow like thee! and make thy stream My great example, as it is my theme; Though deep yet clear, though gentle yet not dull; Strong without rage, without o'erflowing full.

Though with those streams he no resemblance hold, Whose foam is amber and their gravel gold; His genuine and less guilty wealth t' explore, Search not his bottom, but survey his shore.

Clear-sighted reason, wisdom's judgment leads; and sense, her vassal, in her footsteps treads.

Old Mother Wit, and Nature gave Shakespeare and Fletcher all they have; In Spenser, and in Jonson, Art, Of slower Nature got the start. ‘On Mr Abraham Cowley’ Such is our pride, our folly, or our fate, That few, but such as cannot write, translate.

'Tis the most certain sign, the world's accurst That the best things corrupted, are the worst; 'Twas the corrupted Light of knowledge, hurl'd Sin, Death, and Ignorance o'er all the world; That Sun like this (from which our sight we have) Gaz'd on too long, resumes the light he gave.

Darkness our guide, Despair our leader was.

People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.

Uncertain ways unsafest are, And doubt a greater mischief than despair.

Expect not more from servants than is just; Reward them well, if they observe their trust, Nor with them cruelty or pride invade; Since God and nature them our brothers made.

Poetry is of so subtle a spirit that in the pouring out of one language into another it will all evaporate; and if a new spirit be not added in the transfusion there will remain nothing but a caput mortuum.

We are never like angels till our passion dies.

Sure there are poets which did never dream
Upon Parnassus, nor did taste the stream
Of Helicon; we therefore may suppose
Those made not poets, but the poets those.

The spring, like youth, fresh blossoms doth produce,
But autumn makes them ripe and fit for use:
So Age a mature mellowness doth set
On the green promises of youthful heat.

'T is in worldly accidents,
As in the world itself, where things most distant
Meet one another: Thus the east and west,
Upon the globe a mathematical point
Only divides: Thus happiness and misery,
And all extremes, are still contiguous.

O happiness of blindness! now no beauty
Inflames my lust; no other's goods my envy,
Or misery my pity; no man's wealth
Draws my respect; nor poverty my scorn,
Yet still I see enough! man to himself
Is a large prospect, raised above the level
Of his low creeping thoughts; if then I have
A world within myself, that world shall be
My empire; there I'll reign, commanding freely,
And willingly obey'd, secure from fear
Of foreign forces, or domestic treasons.

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Denham, fully Sir John Denham
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English Poet and Courtier, Surveyor of the King's Works